mariners

Mariners Profiles: Michael Saunders under the spotlight

Oh Canada – Michael Saunders

Seattle Mariners – No. 55
Left fielder
Born: November 19, 1986
Victoria, British Columbia
Bats: Left Throws: Right

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a baseball prospect?

I know most of us have at one time in our lives, but does anyone truly know how hard it is to get to the majors, and then be able to perform under the immense weight of  those expectations?

It’s an incredible concept that I think a lot of us cannot understand in it’s totality. There is a reason why there is such a high failure rate associated with prospects and it has nothing to do with a lack of talent.

It’s the pressure to be able to adjust to the expectations that ultimately does them in.

Some prospects have that ability ingrained in them (to be able to handle pressure) and others don’t. It’s a fact of life. The ones that do adjust, they ascend to the highest reaches of Major League Baseball.

The ones that don’t ultimately flame out.

Does anyone know what the odds are of making the major leagues?

Let’s put this in perspective.

These are the success rates of first round picks by position broken down by players coming out after 4 years in college, Junior college, or high school.

1st round

TOTAL

TOTAL

TOTAL

4-yr

HS

JC

All-time great

3.86%

4.28%

0.00%

Superstar

19.32%

15.51%

22.22%

Occasional All-Star

10.14%

9.09%

0.00%

Starter-Solid Regular

6.28%

5.88%

0.00%

Part-time player

12.08%

6.42%

0.00%

Bench warmer

28.02%

20.86%

11.11%

Minor leaguer

20.29%

37.97%

66.67%

Since 1965 the number one overall pick has produced 20 All-stars. Of those 20 players, 2 won Rookie of the Year honors. 4 won the MVP award, and only 1 has won multiple MVP awards.

Currently there have been no Hall of Fame entries from 47 number one picks, but the consensus is Ken Griffey Jr, Chipper Jones, and Alex Rodriguez will all be enshrined in Cooperstown.

All of this information puts in perspective the careers of  players that travel the harder roads to the major leagues. Seattle Mariners utility outfielder Michael Saunders wasn’t a first round selection.

As a matter of fact, he wasn’t even taken in the first ten rounds of the 2004 MLB draft.

When the Mariners did select him in 11th round, the thought was maybe he could develop into a fourth outfielder at best, with a knack for speed and using his glove as his biggest asset.

Do you know what the odds were that Michael Saunders would reach Seattle?

Have a look.

11th round

TOTAL

TOTAL

TOTAL

4-yr

HS

JC

All-time great

0.00%

0.00%

0.00%

Superstar

0.56%

2.56%

4.88%

Occasional All-Star

1.11%

0.00%

4.88%

Starter-Solid Regular

3.33%

1.71%

2.44%

Part-time player

6.67%

3.42%

4.88%

Bench warmer

11.67%

6.84%

9.76%

Minor leaguer

76.67%

85.47%

73.17%

Let’s face it – when you’re an 11th round selection, the franchise that selects you looks at you as nothing more than lower minor league depth. Which makes this story even more special because Saunders was able defy the odds and take advantage of the timing to reach the big leagues.

Saunders made his MLB debut on July 29th, 2009.

Most here in Seattle have heard about the struggles Michael Saunders has endured in three seasons in the big leagues. Some prospects hit automatically at the big league level.

Michael Saunders Mariners Profile

Michael Saunders gets a pass for 2011

Then again, those are higher round picks that come with tons of expectations. Other prospects need more time. Their skill set takes time to translate at the big league level.

There is a feeling out period where adjustments are made and results are slow to come.

Then there are other things outside of the game that can take your mind away from baseball all together. On August 5th of last season, Michael’s mother Jane passed away from a decade long battle with breast cancer.

Despite the news he had known for a while, and after his mothers passing, he came to the clubhouse in Seattle every day with optimism and a smile.

We can now understand just how tough of a year 2011 was for Michael Saunders. It’s not every day that someone has to juggle the weight of  losing their mother and be a major league prospect in the same year.

Excuse me, but I think Michael Saunders gets a pass for 2011.

Saunders will not take the pass though. He fully understands just how close he is hanging on in Seattle. He is fortunate that Jack Zduriencik is sticking with him in 2012.

To repay the favor, Saunders looked to correct his swing that he admits he never got comfortable with in 2011. He worked with  a rubber exercise band around his knees and a second one from under his left armpit to his right shoulder while taking batting practice in the off-season.

The idea was to create tension to stay compact and keep a short swing.

So far the early results are still pending.

Even though Michael Saunders may not go on to an illustrious major league career doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate all that he has done to get here.

It’s not everyday an 11th round pick ascends to the major leagues. To me, that transcends numbers because if your ceiling was only low minor league depth, it makes it that much sweeter if you finally put it together and excel in the major leagues.

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